If all goes according to plan, London’s already busy fall season may be augmented by two further plays, neither of which would automatically spell box office bonanza. Why? One has a cast of 14, the other is by Samuel Beckett, and we’re not talking “Waiting for Godot.” Yet both have unusually strong prospects.
Jez Butterworth‘s new play “Jerusalem” stars Mark Rylance. Ian Rickson‘s Royal Court production opened last week to unanimously celebratory reviews, and a plethora of producers are now battling to transfer the show.
Although the Court has plays lined up including Lucy Prebble‘s “Enron” and Michael Wynne‘s new comedy “The Priory,” a one-week extension has been added, so “Jerusalem” will now close Aug. 22. With negotiations under way, executive director Kate Horton is playing her cards understandably close to the vest.
“We would love the show to transfer,” she told Variety. “We’re talking to a number of potential partners, so we are hopeful we may be able to make this happen.”
The other potential arrival is Beckett’s “Endgame” directed by Simon McBurney, who divided Gotham critics with his radical take on Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons.”
There has been no official confirmation of the production, but insiders claim it will follow the mildly foreshortened run of Ronald Harwood‘s double-bill, “Taking Sides” and “Collaboration,” which will close at the Duchess theater in mid-August, a week earlier than planned. “Endgame” will see McBurney re-teaming with Richard Briers, who starred in his 1998 London and Broadway production of Ionesco’s “The Chairs.”
He must be hoping critics have short memories. “Endgame” was a West End hit just five years ago, in a razor-sharp Matthew Warchus production starring Michael Gambon and Lee Evans.
Meanwhile, talk of London’s other Beckett revival — the Ian McKellen/Patrick Stewart “Waiting for Godot” — having further life after its SRO engagement at the Theater Royal Haymarket has died down. Although Stewart is committed elsewhere, other names, including Antony Sher, were in the frame. That is now looking less than likely.
Were the provision of pure pleasure the sole basis for transferring shows, the latest revival of “The Pirates of Penzance” would be snapped up from its home at the enterprising but miniscule Union Theater.
Yet it’s the act of staging something so large in so small a space that gives the show zest. That, and clever direction and Lizzi Gee‘s smart choreography. Oh, and one more thing: The cast is entirely male. The ensemble all double as the pirates, the police and marriageable young ladies. With apologies to William Finn, it’s what you might call Prance of the Falsettos.
Helmer Sasha Regan also pulls off a considerable coup. While acknowledging the campiness of the casting, the show is played for real. Adam Ellis‘ impressively pitched Mabel and Russell Whitehead‘s Frederick give the famous second-act love duet all the tenderness you would wish for. And even when hanging skull-and-crossbones socks on a washing line, Samuel J. Holmes‘ pragmatic Ruth keeps a sternly straight face — making it all the funnier.